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Some Galt thrift stores irked by state requirements for selling TVs, jewelry

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Posted: Friday, May 11, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:10 am, Fri May 11, 2012.

Galt and Lodi police are working with thrift store owners who must obtain a permit and perform background checks to sell certain items — requirements some owners say are burdensome.

Owners who operate secondhand stores must have a $195 license from the state Department of Justice and pay for a background check to sell gold, silver, jewelry and other specific items such as televisions. They must also track these items. It's similar to requirements imposed on pawn shop owners or coin dealers.

"It's to prevent someone from robbing a home and then selling it to a secondhand store," City Manager Jason Behrmann said.

While it is a state law that went into effect in 2008, it is enforced by local law enforcement officers.

Last year, the Galt Police Department began alerting businesses of the permit. A few complied, but more didn't, Behrmann said.

So police detectives went out at the beginning of the year and again late last month.

"We'll check on compliance to see who has their paperwork or if they've shifted the items they're selling," Police Chief William Bowen said, adding that only one thrift store citywide remains out of compliance.

The owners of Bargain Boutique were cited for selling property that required a secondhand dealers' license. It is a misdemeanor and the business owners must go to court, said Sgt. John Rocha of the Galt Police.

Under the state law, secondhand dealers have to keep a daily inventory of used, tangible property. That includes anything that has a serial number or an inscription such as initials or drivers' license numbers, or something that can be traced back to a person in case it is stolen.

Cameras, TVs, bicycles, jewelry and sterling silver serving utensils are among the items listed by the Department of Justice.

The law also states that these items can't be sold for 30 days after they're received, and must be reported to local law enforcement.

"If it's a stolen item, it can be tracked down to the owner," Rocha said. The information also goes into the state's stolen property database.

In Galt, there are 15 secondhand dealers selling items that require the state license, including those who do business at the flea market, according to Rocha.

'Just ludicrous'

Nice Twice secondhand owner Harold Brown declined to obtain the license because he said it was going to create more work for him and his employees.

"It's a hardship on the business, so we chose not to sell anything that's engraved or has a serial number," he said, adding that he's also turning customers away who want to buy these items.

"It doesn't make sense to me that people will steal something and donate it to a thrift store," he said. "It's just ludicrous. Before this law, we were getting TVs and stereos from little old ladies. I know they didn't steal that."

He is still taking donations of other items such as clothes and some collectibles.

The store, located on C Street in Galt, has been open since 2009, but Brown said he wasn't made aware of the permit until 2010 or 2011.

"How can you be compliant with something you didn't even know about?" he asked.

Daryl Morales, who owns Bargain Boutique and also opted to stop selling the specific items instead of getting the license, doesn't feel it's a fair law. He attended several community meetings last fall to voice his concerns.

Morales recently sold a donated $7 flatbed scanner and a 35-millimeter camera that had both been on the shelf for a year to an undercover officer. He is facing a fine up to $2,500 and two months in jail due to the citation, he said.

"There are so many things out there that I have and didn't know I can't sell," he said. He has been in business for a decade and said he has inventory still in storage.

Morales says sellers and buyers will head to Lodi, where he said the police are not cracking down on businesses.

Detective Mike Manetti of the Lodi Police Department said the city does not go out and check as often as officers would like to.

"If they want to be shady and not fill out a slip, that is unfortunate. But most places are very good," Manetti said, adding that business owners are responsive if victims of stolen property go in searching for their stuff.

"The store owners will let them look through things," he said.

Like Galt, Lodi's secondhand stores that choose to sell specific items are required to keep a log and turn forms in at the police department weekly to account for what has been purchased.

A few years ago, police did not know that owners of the thrift stores Downtown selling jewelry were required to get the license, Manetti said, until he was tipped off by a Stockton thrift store owner that the license was law.

Today, Manetti said the license has to be enforced by police officers; otherwise, it could be forgotten by store owners. And no license means secondhand stores are not legally allowed to make sales.

"If police don't choose to enforce (the law), it is not going to happen," he said.

Nancy Alumbaugh, who runs Wags to Riches in Lodi which raises money for PALS, said the business is not required to have the permit because it is a nonprofit.

"Our decision was a bit different because we do not have as much space in our shop, so with merchandise we are pretty selective," she said.

Vendor complaints

Galt's enforcement efforts originated when flea market vendors selling gold with a permit were concerned fellow vendors without the permit were undercutting them, according to Rocha.

In doing so, it was brought to the police department's attention that there were other businesses operating within city limits without a secondhand dealers' permit. So in March 2010, the police department set out to educate business owners.

"It wasn't like we were singling people out. So we provided the information, but went back out and found they had not applied for the permit," Rocha said, adding that business owners had more than two years to comply with the state law after officers were made aware of the issue.

"It came to our attention, and once it did, we had to address it," he said. "We've tried to work with the businesses as much as possible."

In the end, Brown said donations have dropped because of the law.

"Ninety-nine percent of the stuff donated comes from someone who had a yard sale and wants to get rid of it. In the end, it's really going to hit the thrift store businesses," he said. "I'm just a little guy who's struggling because of the economy. All the little people are going to shut down."

News-Sentinel staff writer Katie Nelson contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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